Jazmin GrahamThe Red Bank Regional VPA orchestra accompanied Jazmin Graham as she sang the Nora Jones ballad “Don’t Know Why,” during the annual Black History Month program at the school.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Every February, Red Bank Regional High School celebrates Black History Month with a heartwarming program for its student body. Sponsored by the school’s Multi-cultural Club and History Club, the event spotlights the talents of RBR Visual and Performing Arts Academy students in highlighting the timeless contributions of African Americans to American society.

At the 2016 event held last week in the RBR auditorium, Principal Risa Clay greeted her students by explaining the reason we celebrate this month, stating that “it is imperative that Americans learn the complete history of the United States. All students should study and celebrate the history of all people. It is by knowing and learning about others that we continue to grow and learn from each another and better understand each other.”

blackhistorymonthofficialAmong the key contributors to the RBR Black History program were (left to right) Multi-cultural Club Co-Advisor Odilia Lligui, Jazmin Graham, Gabby Amorelli, Liv Winnicki, keynote speaker Sgt. Joey Fields, Risa Clay, Mya Nunnally, Jordan Fleming, Emily Lugos, and Multi-cultural Club Co-Advisor Karina Tedeschi.

Senior Jazmin Graham informed the assembly of the sobering fact that racism is still alive and well in America, offering a vivid hometown example which took place on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

“Members of the Klu Klux Klan left fliers all over the Red Bank/Fair Haven area,” the RBR senior explained, in reference to an incident that was reported here on redbankgreen. “In these fliers, the KKK expressed a racist-driven hatred for Martin Luther King Jr., and other ideas supporting white supremacy. The KKK also left phone numbers and other contact information, encouraging people to join their racist group.”

Referring to the removal of the Confederate flag from the vicinity of the South Carolina statehouse, Graham observed that “True, we have come a long way…but we must realize that racism has not ended.”

RBR History Club members detailed geographic areas of the country that represented the history of Black America from monuments, including such iconic sites as The Lincoln Memorial, where slavery’s end was inscribed in stone, to the Selma bridge and Brown Chapel AME Church, the site of the Civil Rights march. They detailed the cultural neighborhoods of NYC’s Harlem and Sweet Auburn Avenue where much African American inspired music flourished.

The RBR Visual and Performing Art string majors serenaded the audience with a medley of African American music that ranged from the iconic spiritual “Amazing Grace” to the roots of rock and roll. The VPA orchestra accompanied Jazmin Graham as she sang the Nora Jones jazz ballad “Don’t Know Why,” and the vocal majors performed the spiritual “Shine on Me,” as well as the African folk song “Singaba Hambayo Ottawa.”

RBR’s dance majors performed their choreographed version of Matt Corby’s “Brother,” which is themed on unification and community. The academy’s Creative Writers performed selections of their own work, including Gabby Amorelli and Liv Winnicki’s “20/20,” which featured the refrain “We are not here to tell you ‘not all white people’…we are here to tell you that we see it too.”

Award-winning poet Maya Nunnally joined her fellow writers in presenting two self-authored poems — “This is for the Black Girls” with Jordan Fleming, and the haunting, “Martin Luther, What Age Would You Like to Live In?” with Emily Lugos (the performances can be viewed here on YouTube).

The inspirational keynote speaker for this year’s program was RBR Class of 1987 alumnus Joey Fields, a twenty-year veteran of the Red Bank Police Department who rose to the rank of Sergeant and has distinguished himself as a Dare Officer and Gang Resistance Education trainer. He boasts an  impressive community service resume as coordinator of the Fathers and Sons Flag Football League, in addition to the Summer League Basketball Program with the Aslan Youth Ministries. He is also a mentor with Lunch Break among other organizations.

An engaging and entertaining speaker, he held the students attention with stories of his youth, particularly one in which he related how his aspirations to become a policeman were fiercely derided by the local corner bully.

“Well,” he explained, “he is still hanging out on that corner, and I have a family, a good job and a pension.”

Encouraging the students to always give back to their community, Sgt. Fields left them with the message, “everyone is going to face adversity in their lives. You can overcome it, but remember; you author your own stories… you write the script of your life.”